Going Down Parsi Times’ Memory Lane

My happy memories about journalism go back to my childhood and my encounter with Homi Mistry, the deputy editor with Blitz. His boss was the legendary investigative journalist Rusi Karanjia and I bumped into him when I was just fourteen. We shared a cuppa that day and many more later… I do not think I have ever met a more intelligent or groomed man, I was in awe! Later in life I often did try to come up to the level of his sartorial excellence, but fell short. I could not become a journalist even though I pursued my great love of English language, literature and French. I became a teacher and have enjoyed every moment of it.

Even so, I always felt a pang in my heart whenever I read an article with the writers name emblazoned atop. A couple of decades ago, I started writing small pieces, just letters to the editor. Nothing more. I was……… “Stop rambling, dear Darabsha! Put on your thinking cap, Parsi cap or whatever and churn out something. Didn’t you learn anything from the great men?”

“OMG! That’s my Editor!”

Getting back on track, in 2011 I walked into the office of the Parsi Times which was a mewling little babe of a couple of months then. I received a cordial welcome from Freyan Bhathena – the then Editor. It was love at the first sight, ….er, with Parsi Times, and that has not diminished with time. Freyan and I hit it off like old sailors on shore leave! She encouraged me to write on Iranian history, which I did, covering almost all the kings from Pashdadian dynasty right up to the Sasanian dynasty.

Parsi times came at a time when there was a dire need of a well-balanced, news-worthy balanced newspaper, that was neither overtly nor covertly biased to either of the two mainly warring sides – the orthodox or the progressives. Both editors, first Freyan and now Anahita, have done their best to give balanced views and news. From first slow tentative steps, like any new-born babe, with good nurturing from very dedicated staff, it has now marched on and has become a household name.

And it exudes a warm, Parsi atmosphere at office! My friend John, PT’s head designer, has been with PT almost since its inception is ever smiling, ever obliging, even a tad shy, but a genius at his job! Gitaben, the Gujarati Ed, is also an old-timer who does a sterling job in presenting fine content for our Gujarati readers. Ever-smiling office executive, Soharab, affectionately called Soli, is impish and happy-go-lucky but sincere in his work, always offering me a cuppa coffee, even though he knows I need something with more authority when I am trying to give the community a great piece of literature! When Soli ain’t in office, he is often seen in company of John and his colleague, the most efficient Pradeep, near the friendly neighbourhood bhelwalla.

Delaveen Tarapore is petite, intelligent and amiable, always welcomes me with a great smile. Being the Assistant Editor, she sometimes sounds like her Editor when she rings me up to say, “Dara Uncle, tukku karo!” I say, “Short and sweet is you. I am big and bulky, and so is my lavaro!” Finally I give in, as I always do to pretty ladies.

I do not know about other Editors-in-Chief, upon entering whose cabins nervous writers and reporters might repeat the formulae enunciated by the gladiators entering the colosseum, ‘morituri te salutante’, but with aapri Anahita Subedar, one need not have any such fears. A simple knock and she’ll say come in (though with me, once or twice, I have had a feeling she has muttered under her breath, “Darabsha, OMG. Now what?”) She is very cordial. I often get her goat by writing in excess of what is required and then, like a teacher speaking to a not-very-intelligent child, she will, after taking a deep breath, say, “Darabsha, dear Darabsha cut it,  dear Darabsha cut it!”, reminding me of the song, ‘There’s a Hole in the Bucket’! On the whole, Anahita is a great Editor and we have a great time working with her. With her! She never gives the impression that we work under her. She is very thoughtful too. I remember her calling for a birthday cake immediately upon learning that my mother had brought in a disaster several decades ago that very day, and we had an impromptu party at office! She does this for every member of her staff!

PT or Parsi Times, as it is now fondly called is a family newspaper and gives everyone a chance to express his or her views, feelings and ideas. Be it young or not so young, all can find a voice here. Various view-points on lofty subjects like religion, philosophy, economics, finance are discussed threadbare and without any rancor, as also some ridiculously rib-tickling write-ups. It is fun to read the Valentine issue as also the Jamshedi Navroz and Navroz/Pateti jumbo issues with topics galore from religion, reminiscences of the days gone by to the Parsi philanthropists, freedom fighters, Industrialists and bankers of the yore! Fun and humour are an integral part of aapru PT. For the culture vultures, a column is dedicated to Western Classical Music every month. For gastronomes, there are epicurean treats, for cinephiles – an expert guide and for animal lovers – the care for your fur and feathered family members. What more can you get? But if there is more, ask and you will have it!

I have the liberty to write whenever I please, and so I ramble on, but Anahita – she has to edit a newspaper, write editorials and handle John ‘n’ Gitaben ‘n’ Dela ‘n’ Soli ‘n’ the accounts ‘n’ admin team… some  prima donna of writers too! Yet her editorials are the first thing many of us read, come Saturday. That speaks a lot of her leadership skills and grasp of the community put across in her prodigious ability to write.

Under such a Happy team and talented writers including ‘yours truly’(“Darabsha stop blowing your own trumpet!!!”), PT is sure to go a long, long way!


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